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State prejudiced by 22-year delay in bringing PCR petition

May 8, 2015

The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed with a lower court that the doctrine of laches prevents a man convicted of murder in the 1980s from prosecuting a post-conviction relief petition in 2014 that was originally filed in 1992.

Jay Thompson was 17 years old when he and another man stabbed to death a couple during a robbery. The Indiana Supreme Court revised his death sentence to 120 years in prison. Thompson filed for PCR in 1992, filed several amendments to his petition over 20 years, but did not prosecute it until 2014. The state filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to the doctrine of laches, noting many of its witnesses had since died, which the PCR court granted.

In Jay R. Thompson v. State of Indiana, 31A01-1408-PC-350, Thompson argued that laches can only be used as a defense to a PCR petition based on a delay in filing the petition and may not be based on a delay in prosecuting the petition.

 “Although the particular facts of some cases may present a distinction between a delay in filing and a delay in prosecuting a PCR petition, we see no reason to draw such a distinction here as the prejudice to the State would be the same in either case,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote, noting in Mast v. State, 914 N.E.2d 851 (Ind. Ct. App. 2009), Judge John Baker reasoned that a delay of 18 years in prosecuting a PCR petition would be sufficient to support a laches defense.

Thompson offered no argument as to why his 22-year delay in prosecuting his petition was not unreasonable and he even stipulated that the state was prejudiced by the delay since the majority of its witnesses in the case are deceased. This is sufficient to support the PCR court’s finding of laches, the COA ruled.

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